LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC-TV) - Hundreds of people braved the cold Monday for a chance to receive free dental care at a Lake Charles dentist's office.
For the eighth year, Oak Park Dental offered free filings, cleanings and extractions at a first come, first serve basis. The staff at Oak Park Dental considers their free service a Valentine's Day gift to the less fortunate in the community.
"Today's a day we make these people feel special," said Dr. Harry Castle. "We take care of their needs and make them feel special in every way we can."
Castle started the free Valentine's Day service after learning that many local people weren't able to visit the dentist as often as they should, primarily because of lack of health insurance.
"When the economy is as bad as it is here in Lake Charles right now, there's a lot more people needing our services, lots of people that don't have jobs and those are the people we want to see," said Castle.
When the clinic opened Monday morning, the line outside the door stretched all the way around and to the back of the building. People were huddled up together in blankets, while others slept on cots. Most arrived just prior to sunrise. A few, those at the very front of the line, had been camping out for more than 24 hours, according to Castle.
Husband and wife Billy and Sheralee Bruss were waiting in line at 6 A.M.
Pointing to her jacket and hoodie, Sheralee said, "I had all this and a blanket over me. It was freezing."
"The dentist came by and said if [we] can endure the cold, it'll be worth it," said Billy.
The clinic's staff was overwhelmed all day Monday, as there were only two dentists working on about 200 patients, but workers stayed late to make sure every person waiting with a ticket saw a dentist.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 63% of adults in the U.S. visit a dentist at least once a year.